Janus Who? Council 36 flexes new power since SCOTUS decision

As they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. On the one-year anniversary of the horrible, anti-union Janus v. AFSCME decision, AFSCME District Council 36 is indeed stronger than before. 

Over the last year, Council 36 saw virtually no membership drop requests come in; on the contrary, our federation of 60 locals grew power by adding 1,100 members. The Janus vs. AFSCME decision essentially took away workers’ fair share rights by overturning the 40-year Abood precedent, and forcing union members to pay for the representation of non-members. This created an unjust situation that financially rewarded those who would take advantage of their co-workers and game the system for their own individual benefit.

But what was said to be the nail in the coffin for labor, quickly turned into a rallying point with public sector unions shifting their efforts towards organizing. 

 “Just because big employers got a Supreme Court that would do their bidding doesn’t mean they got their way,” said Rusty Hicks, President of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. “The labor movement saw Janus coming from a mile away, we connected, and we prevailed.”

Prior to Janus, Council 36 and other AFSCME affiliates nationwide began doubling down on member-to-member organizing, including by recruiting troops to knock on members’ doors and holding face to face conversations.

A number of Council 36 Locals took on the challenge with gusto.

“We are very fortunate and blessed that we did not lose membership but gained,” said Ana Meni, President of AFSCME Local 809, which is part of Council 36. “With every new employee that was hired on, we have maintained 100% union membership. We are also solidifying the support of our existing membership which is why we have 100% new membership cards for our previous existing members. This is not about just retaining our membership, but also propelling our union to the next phase.”

Another Council 36 Local, AFSCME Local 2712, was able to grow its membership ranks by a significant number. “We collected 117 member enrollment cards so far in 2019,” said Teddy McKenna, President of the Local 2712, representing about 900 LA County Psychiatric Social Workers.  “We’re very proud of our members’ internal organizing efforts and the support of AFSCME District Council 36 and of AFSCME International.”

In Anaheim, AFSCME Local 2076 also expanded its ranks. As reported in an OC Register story last June by then-staff writer, Margot Roosevelt, the Local’s President Diana Corral initiated “member action teams” that fanned across 14 worksites, asking co-workers to sign “commitment cards.” The cards were signed by more than 90 percent of the members. In addition, the vast majority of the union's 200 non-members signed up as full members.

Council 36 simultaneously took decisive steps to expand its Organizing Dept. in the last six months, by hiring Organizing Director Ling Esangga and assigning two dedicated staff strictly to organizing for the first time. Major membership gains have been made as a result, including in AFSCME Local 3090, representing LA City Clerical and Support Staff, and AFSCME Local 741, representing LA City Part-Time Recreation and Parks Employees.

By building power member by member, Council 36 members post-Janus are not just #AFSCMEStrong anymore, but #AFSCMEStronger. 

Photo at right: AFSCME District Council members and staff at a rally outside LA City Hall, protesting the unjust Janus decision in June 2018; reprinted courtesy of the OC Register.